Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Fraught elections coming up in Honduras (Nov. 23, 2021)

Hondurans vote in general elections next Sunday in a climate marked by uncertainty and volatility generated by political violence, and strong links between some candidates and corruption or organized crime. Citizens will choose the next president, but also a new Congress that will have significant impact on key upcoming judicial appointments (Supreme Court seats and attorney general), as well as the potential to launch an internationally backed international anti-corruption commission, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Candidates closed their campaigns on Sunday in boisterous rallies, reports Reuters. Xiomara Castro, of the leftist opposition Libre Party, is ahead in polls, against ruling National Party's Nasry Asfura. Castro is running on an anti-corruption platform, while also favoring a partial legalization of abortion and a diplomatic opening to China.

Honduras "risks repeating the destabilising protests that followed its disputed 2017 elections," warns the Crisis Group. President Juan Orlando Hernández is reportedly looking into ways to protect himself from possible prosecution in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. He and the ruling National Party thus have a huge stake in polls. 

"New electoral bodies appear ill prepared to deal with disputes in what could be a tight contest. To reduce risks of post-election unrest, the main parties’ representatives on those bodies should take decisions by consensus, if at all possible. Political leaders should pledge to respect the outcome, look to institutions to address challenges to results and keep protests by supporters peaceful," recommends the report.

Brian Nichols, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, arrived in Honduras on Sunday and met with a local elections watchdog prior to holding talks with election officials yesterday, a fresh sign of American interest in the vote, according to Reuters.

News Briefs

El Salvador
  • Interim U.S. ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes will leave her post this week. She cited the Bukele administration’s lack of interest in crossing “a bridge” of dialogue, as well as El Salvador’s refusal to extradite senior MS-13 leaders wanted on terrorism charges and concerns about a proposed foreign agents law. “When El Salvador wants to converse, our door will be open," Manes said yesterday. (El Faro)

  • The departure of Jean Manes, who was once seen as a potential bridge to better relations, appears to emphasize the deteriorating ties between the two countries as Bukele gathers increasing power, reports the Associated Press.

  • El Salvador's lawmakers have postponed voting on the controversial foreign agents law that would require non-profit organizations and independent media who “are directly or indirectly funded by a foreigner” to register as foreign agents, submit to government inspections, and pay 40 percent tax on all foreign income. (El Faro)

  • International investors are skeptical of El Salvador's new plan to finance a "bitcoin city" with a cryptocurrency bond, saying the scheme could push the country further from access to traditional debt markets, reports the Financial Times. Experts said the new bitcoin bond offering might struggle to attract investors, especially because it appears to pay interest at a lower rate than the country’s conventional dollar-denominated bonds, reports Coindesk.
  • Two of the 17 foreign missionaries kidnapped last month in Haiti were freed -- the rest of the group remains in the hands of one of the country's most feared gangs, reports the New York Times. The Miami Herald reports that no ransom was paid and the hostages are two adults who were freed because of illness. The leader of 400 Mawozo gang has threatened to kill the hostages unless the gang’s demands are met, notes the Associated Press.
  • Nicaraguan authorities detained the country's former ambassador to the Organization of American States, Edgar Parrales, on Monday. The 79-year-old was a vocal critic of the Ortega regime, and shouted to his wife that he was being taken against his will by civilians, reports Confidencial.

  • The Nicaraguan government announced it will begin the two-year process of breaking ties with the OAS, on Friday. Cuba and Venezuela are the only other non-member countries in the hemisphere. Nicaragua’s exit comes at a moment when the OAS has been “strongly criticized for partiality and ineffectiveness in guaranteeing democratic stability in the region,” Salvadoran human rights advocate Celia Medrano told El Faro.

  • President "Daniel Ortega has succeeded in completely isolating Nicaragua," Chilean senator and former OAS secretary general José Miguel Insulza told Confidencial

  • Confidencial turns 25, with its offices occupied by the police twice, and with a staff in exile, doing journalism in resistance. Carlos F. Chamorro tells the story of the magazine.
  • Chile's presidential election results are confusing for outsiders: ultra conservative José Antonio Kast, a proponent of order and security, came in first -- only a year after voters chose to rewrite the country's constitution and elected a slate of independent and leftist delegates to do so. "There is no confusion or repentance," argues Patricio Navia in Americas Quarterly. (See yesterday's post.)

  • Most Chileans want "pragmatic and moderate change in social policies and economic inclusion, but they do not want to throw out the baby with the bathwater," he writes. "While people want a new constitution that will give them more social rights, they also want to maintain many aspects of the economic model that has brought that country so much prosperity over the past three decades. Chileans want the new constitution to entrench more social rights, but they also want a law-and-order government. The presidency will likely go to whomever is best able to articulate that balance." (See yesterday's post.)
  • "The Brazilian government’s apparent decision to hide data showing a massive 22% increase in Amazon deforestation until after the COP climate summit in Scotland ended is a major development, one that will permanently change how the international community deals with President Jair Bolsonaro," argues Americas Quarterly editor-in-chief Brian Winter. (See Friday's briefs.)

  • At least eight bodies, including some showing signs of torture, have been found in a mangrove swamp outside of Rio de Janeiro. Residents said they expect more bodies will turn up following an “intense” gun battle in the community involving police, reports Al Jazeera.

  • Brazilian Amazon deforestation is tied to growing agriculture in recent decades, and has accelerated in recent years, driven in part by international investors, reports The Intercept.

  • Brazilian coffee co-op monteCCer received a price premium in its first sale of a batch of carbon-neutral arabica coffee that was nearly double what an equivalent product certified as sustainable but not carbon-neutral would obtain, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia’s long-running failure to define who owns what land, and to record the limits of protected areas is a driver of conflict in the country's Amazon. In the peace accord with the FARC the government agreed to distribute land titles, in part to prevent such disputes. But delays in fulfilling that promise are pitting vulnerable populations against each other, reports the Washington Post.

  • Local community leaders have provided the last line of defense against the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, write Blanca Lucía Echeverry and Andrew Miller in a New York Times essay. But President Iván Duque "has done little to protect them" from attacks and threats against their lives.
  • Deforestation doesn't only impact climate change, it also makes viruses more likely to spread among humans. Some experts say a lethal virus originating in the Amazon rainforest, linked to its high rate of deforestation, is only a matter of time, reports Foreign Policy's Latin America Brief.
  • Ecuador's longnose harlequin frog is about to play a central role in a legal battle to stop a mining project in the Intag valley in Imbabura province, which campaigners say would be a disaster for the highly biodiverse cloud forests, reports the Guardian.
  • Armed Paraguayan security forces faced off against Indigenous villagers in the country's latest clash over land rights. Police in riot gear tore down a Hugua Po’i community's homes and ripped up crops, in an eviction of land which is claimed by a Mennonite soybean farmer, reports the Guardian. It is part of a wave of rural evictions this year in Paraguay, which has one of the highest inequalities of land ownership in the world.

  • A new history of the 19th-century War of the Triple Alliance makes the case that Britain did plot to overthrow Paraguayan ruler Francisco Solano López, reports the Guardian
  • Anti-vaccine mandate protests in Guadeloupe turned violent over the past week, fueled by long standing social and economic frustrations in the French territory over inequality with the mainland, reports the New York Times. Protesters burned cars, looted businesses and clashed with riot police officers, who responded with tear gas. More than 30 people have been detained, and French President Emmanuel Macron appealed for calm and order.
  • The UK metals company Hochschild Mining promised to fight the Peruvian government's plans to hasten the closure of several mines in the southern Ayacucho region because of concerns over their environmental impact. (Guardian)
  • The gunning down of a young footballer in Buenos Aires has sparked outrage and renewed debate over crime, insecurity and trigger-happy policing in Argentina, reports the Buenos Aires Times. (See Friday's briefs.)

  • Nine officers were charged in a separate case of a person who died in custody in a Buenos Aires province police station. (Infobae)

  • Clarín reports how plainclothes police regularly harass residents of Buenos Aires poor neighborhoods. 

  • A photography project about long hair by Irina Werning morphed into La Promesa, a series that portrays Argentina's education crisis and the inequality gap exposed by the pandemic through the story of Antonella Bordon. -- The Guardian

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...


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